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Sun Gazette: Democrats Expect Pickups in House of Delegates, But Don’t Get Specific Print


Created:  Tuesday, October 8, 2013  11:45 am


Members of the Arlington delegation to the House of Delegates are hoping for a little more Democratic company next session. But trying to pin them down on specifics has proved a losing proposition.

The Democratic caucus numbered an anemic 32 members in the 100-person House of Delegates during the 2013 session, making Democrats largely irrelevant to the workings of the lower house.

With Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe enjoying a slight but consistent lead in polling, local Democrats say odds are good that they will net at least a few additional seats:

 “Democrats have put up strong candidates around the state that are focused on problem-solving for transportation and education, creating jobs and moving our state forward,” said Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45th), one of four delegates whose districts include slices of Arlington.

 The Democratic message of investing in education, transportation and a social safety net “is resonating with the voters, and I believe that message will lead to electing more Democrats,” said Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th).

Neither Krupicka nor Hope wanted to be held to a numerical prediction. Krupicka said he wasn’t a good prognosticator, Hope said he hadn’t been following all the House of Delegates races closely enough.

But ask around – to incumbents, pundits and political professionals – and you’ll hear whispers that a healthy victory by McAuliffe over Republican Ken Cuccinelli could lead to a net pickup of five or maybe six seats, enough to give Democrats another slot on House committees.

But it’s equally as likely that a McAuliffe victory wouldn’t have as significant an effect, particularly on Republican incumbents.

Political prognosticator Ben Tribbett has opined that two Northern Virginia Republicans in swing districts – Del. Tom Rust in the Herndon-centric 86th and Del. Barbara Comstock in the McLean/Great Falls-centered 34th – probably are safe from Democratic challenges. Republicans are expected to retain virtually all their seats in the outer D.C. suburbs, Tribbett believes.

(Of the four Arlington delegates, Del. Bob Brink is unopposed in the 48th and the other three – Krupicka, Hope and Alfonso Lopez in the 49th – are facing third-party challengers. Republicans did not field candidates in any of the districts.)

The House of Delegates traces its roots back to the colonial House of Burgesses, which first met in 1619 and is considered the oldest continual legislative body in the New World. Democrats controlled the House of Delegates – often by huge majorities – from the end of the Civil War until Republicans wrested control in 1999. Republican-led redistricting after the 2000 and 2010 federal censuses gave the party a chance to solidify its control.

In the 2013 session, Republicans held 67 seats. The lone independent, Lacey Putney, who has served in the legislature since 1962 but is not seeking re-election, caucused with the GOP, bringing its total to 68.